The Senate on Thursday approved an amendment to a two-bill spending package allocating $20 million to the new authority allowing DOD to provide funding to state and local governments for off-base infrastructure projects, bringing the opportunity for communities to obtain funding under the Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program in the new fiscal year one step closer. By Thursday evening, the chamber approved the underlying $857 billion minibus made up of the defense and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations measures.
The Senate’s approval of the fiscal 2019 defense spending bill in August positions Congress to possibly avoid starting the new fiscal year with a series of continuing resolutions to fund the Pentagon. The path to working out a compromise spending bill with the House that could be sent to the president is uncertain, however. The House passed its FY 2019 defense spending bill in June, but its Labor-HHS-Education measure has not been debated on the floor. One option is for the chambers to hash out a conference report for the defense bill by itself, but that’s not the first choice of Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “We’d like to go to conference as soon as we can with the House with the bills coupled together,” Shelby said, reported CQ.
The chairman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee also indicated he would like to see the two spending bills move together as a way to gain House Republicans’ support for a large domestic spending measure. Attaching the two, though, likely would complicate the path toward a House-Senate compromise, slowing enactment of the defense title. The good news is there are five weeks before the new fiscal year gets under way.
At this point, passage of the Senate amendment funding the defense community infrastructure initiative represents a significant achievement for ADC, with much of the credit going to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), co-chair of the Senate Defense Communities Caucus, and the association’s Federal Outreach Advisory Committee.
The provision was included in a package of non-controversial amendments that passed by unanimous consent. Another provision, offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would allocate $45 million to clean PFOA and PFOS contamination at military bases.
The defense spending bill would provide about $675 billion for military and intelligence programs, including almost $68 billion for the overseas contingency operations account, matching the topline in the House version. Still, there are considerable differences in funding for individual programs between the two versions that need to be reconciled.